Why photo agencies pulled Kate Middleton’s mothers day photo

The first official photo of Kate since she underwent abdominal surgery was suddenly pulled over concerns

Albert Toth
Wednesday 13 March 2024 04:57 GMT
First photo of Kate released after abdominal surgery

Several of the world’s biggest news agencies have pulled an official Mother’s Day picture of Kate, the Princess of Wales, and her three children from circulation after concerns were raised about image manipulation.

Kensington Palace shared the image on Sunday, marking the first official photo of the princess since she underwent abdominal surgery nearly two months ago. The exact nature of her treatment has not been shared.

Speculation on social media has been widespread, with members of the public wondering why Kate had not made any public appearances since December, and expressing concern for her health.

In a highly unusual move for an official royal photo, it was pulled by a number of news agencies after concerns about manipulation.
In a highly unusual move for an official royal photo, it was pulled by a number of news agencies after concerns about manipulation. (Prince of Wales/Kensington Palace/PA Wire)

However, efforts to shut down the gossip backfired after royal observers noticed inconsistencies in the photo', leading to claims that it had been manipulated.

The Associated Press (AP), Reuters, Getty Images, and Agence France-Presse (AFP) all pulled the photograph from circulation later on Sunday. The Press Association follow suit on Monday morning, saying the palace had failed to give clarification.

Shortly after, the Princess of Wales broke her silence over the picture row, saying: “Like many amateur photographers, I do occasionally experiment with editing.”

“I wanted to express my apologies for any confusion the family photograph we shared yesterday caused. I hope everyone celebrating had a very happy Mother’s Day”.

What was wrong with the picture?

The picture appeared on William and Kate’s social media channels at 9am, shared with a Mother’s Day message from Kate. It is a photograph of the princess and her three children – George, Charlotte and Louis – credited to Prince William and taken in Windsor.

“Thank you for your kind wishes and continued support over the last two months,” she said.

At first glance the photograph may appear completely normal, however social media users were quick to point out some key giveaways that the picture may have been altered, or ‘photoshopped’.

Most glaring is Princess Charlotte’s left-hand sleeve, which appears to partially dissolve into nothing. Kate’s right hand also appears to be unusually blurred, while a wall near Louis’ leg appears to disconnect.

By early evening, many news agencies decided to remove the image after examining it more closely.

Several issues have been spotted of Kate’s Mother’s Day that have led to concerns of manipulation
Several issues have been spotted of Kate’s Mother’s Day that have led to concerns of manipulation (Kensington Palace / PA)

What did the news agencies say?


UK national news agency PA Media removed the image from their picture service on Monday. A spokesperson for the agency said: “Like other news agencies, PA Media issued the handout image provided by Kensington Palace of the Princess of Wales and her children in good faith yesterday.

“We became aware of concerns about the image and we carried a report about it last night, and made clear that we were seeking urgent clarification about the image from Kensington Palace. In the absence of that clarification, we are killing the image from our picture service.”

Getty Images

American visual media company Getty Images said on Sunday: “Earlier today our Picture Desk identified a problematic image provided to Getty Images by Kensington Palace. We can confirm the image in question was removed from our site in accordance with our editorial policy.”


AP issued an immediate “kill notification” on the picture, notifying customers that it was being pulled from their service.

“At closer inspection it appears that the source has manipulated the image,” the AP said in its advisory. “No replacement photo will be sent.”

The news agency later gave further clarified their position: “AP’s editorial standards state that images must be accurate. AP does not use altered or digitally manipulated images.”


Reuters confirmed they had removed the image following a post-publication review. “We are reviewing the matter,” a spokesperson said.

The agency later shared a news release which clarified their position: “Reuters picture editors said part of the sleeve of Kate‘s daughter’s cardigan did not line up properly, suggesting that the image had been altered.

“Reuters could not immediately establish how, why or by whom the alteration had been made.”


“It has come to light that the Handout issued by Kensington Palace today of Kate and the kids had been altered,” wrote the French news agency in a note to clients, “therefore it was withdrawn from AFP systems.”


EPA Images also issued a ‘mandatory kill’ notice on the picture of Kate and her children over concerns of photo manipulation.

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